Patton – The Stark Truth behind the CIA’s ‘Colossal Flop’

By Kerry Patton – SOFREP

According to a dramatic December 8, 2013 article in the LA Times, the CIA’s anti-terrorism program was such a “colossal flop” that the critical program designed to place spies in positions to learn the most about terrorist networks is being cut.

The program runs outside normal CIA channels as do the agents. They are not the typical embassy employees or others sent abroad with diplomatic immunities to cover them. These people are the ones who lack official status: the “NOCs”, which stands for “non official cover.’ These are the real spies who risk imprisonment, torture and death if they are caught.CIA Collossal Flop

The article judges the entire NOC program and, though it reveals many problems that may make some NOCs less effective than they should be, several could have and should have been recognized when the program really took off after 9-11, and have been remedied simply by the passage of time.

For example, it takes at least five years for a person to learn a language such as Arabic or Farsi. It may take ten years or more for a NOC to insinuate himself into a terrorist group and even longer for someone to get access to planned terrorist attacks and figure out how to communicate – in the absence of emails and cell phones – their intelligence material to their CIA handlers. That there hasn’t been a massive success since 9-11 in places such as Iran should be a surprise to no one. And it is not a reason to cut the NOC program.

But one of the biggest problems wasn’t touched upon is the ongoing conflict inside the CIA between those in the field – the operators and handlers – and the bureaucrats who sit comfortably in their offices and risk nothing more than having to drink a latte at the wrong temperature.

The world of covert operators has almost disappeared because good people are driven from that service. More will continue to drop out as they become aware of the travails they face after their service. America’s best and brightest won’t make the personal sacrifices necessary to perform covert intelligence operations when they are afraid of becoming the one sacrificed to bureaucratic games and congressional nonsense after their service.

For many years, the CIA has undergone dramatic cultural shifts within.

Analysts far outnumber operators, as do contractors, academics and think tank “experts.” Where once stood a CIA “tribe” united in service to our nation, the CIA is now more like a cacophony of fiefdoms in constant rivalry.

The CIA’s sole purpose is to gather intelligence. Now, it’s purpose seems to be to feed the fiefdoms enough to keep them all actively in competition with each other. To revive an old concept the NOCs – the spies still out in the cold – are getting the short end of the stick. That is a fact that is now and will continue to damage our nation’s security.

It is not a well-known fact that non-official cover operatives are not always employees of the CIA. Not all NOCs are on the “official” CIA payroll.

These types of NOCs are actual “assets.” They may be referred to as “agents” depending upon the generation the person is from. (The terminology between “agents” and “assets” is really just a matter of semantics.)

Some of these “assets” or “agents” are officially employed by the US government while others are non-official. Beyond payroll aspects, “official” NOCs are identified, categorized, and filed under a unique system that is also traceable in the CIA Index—a database of all CIA human and business assets.

What happens when someone misplaces, accidently destroys, or simply never fills out appropriate documentation for operatives working on behalf of the CIA—serving as an actual NOC? This is the ultimate in plausible deniability.

Plausible deniability is the name of the game when it comes to the spy world. Files, if they are ever created, may leave absolutely zero proof of operational capacity. Of course, the CIA is not the only federal organization having issues with maintaining records.

It is a well-known fact that the Department of Defense has horrible record keeping skills. There are many cases of folks who left the military with an honorable discharge. Sometimes when they receive their Form DD 214, though, half of their career is omitted. More often than not this is caused by human error, but there are times when this is done intentionally—especially for those who work for DOD and are tasked to perform key missions in the clandestine or covert world. Operators for Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), DEVGRU, or CAG are some examples of this.

So how do people maintain their credibility if they have no verification to support their claims? There is only one way for a CIA operative to protect himself from future political lynching. I was told once by a very smart man who supervised me while I served on active duty to, “always maintain a copy of everything you do or receive.” Illegal? Maybe. Improper? Pretty likely. Necessary to survive an attack on your credibility? Absolutely.

Maintaining a copy of everything you do or receive is a lot more difficult than some might imagine—especially for those who toil in the bowels of the covert world.

The clandestine world demands a very secretive and often lonely lifestyle. No one ever knows the truth. This includes an operative’s family. The operator himself may not know the complete truth. The spouse may never know what an operator has done for the government or the secret life he/she has been hiding all for years.

With unprecedented rifts that sometimes occur inside the CIA and the Intelligence Community, how does an operator protect him/herself when attacked by other disgruntled former employees or retirees who want to remain relevant?

Due to current laws, the US Intelligence Community requires total secrecy of its employees even after an employee leaves or retires. Handlers, as they are referred to, are not authorized to be publicly revealed. Methods of payments and paymasters cannot be exposed. Specific forms of identification through the numerical system cannot be revealed. The list goes on and on, and in truth, there is no possible way for many of these assets/agents to counter any form of “stolen valor” accusation when confronted.

Verifying military service and records is easy. Verifying intelligence service is complex and sometimes impossible. We owe it to our assets – agents, NOCs and the rest – to require those who would reveal them, rake them over the coals in newspapers or pillory them in congressional hearings to understand the burdens the intelligence people carry with them throughout their lives.


Kerry Patton is author of several military/spy thrillers which can be found at his Amazon Author Page.

MSM—You missed the bus on Hezbollah

By Kerry Patton; SUA ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ Member

This week, main stream media decided to finally report about Hezbollah (Hizballah) inside the United States. The New York City Counterterrorism Division along with the former head of the DEA testified about the Hezbollah crisis before Congress. Why hasn’t the main stream media picked up on this issue earlier—like years earlier?

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) warned Wednesday that there are hundreds — maybe even thousands — of Hezbollah agents inside the United States capable of launching a terror attack if U.S.-Iran tensions continue to escalate.

“The American intelligence community … believes we are very much at risk for an attack by Iranian operatives, which would be Hezbollah, that is a terrorist-trained force in this country. It really is the ‘A’ team of international terrorism — far more sophisticated than Al Qaeda,” the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee said on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

Read this report on “Iran, Hezbollah and the Threat to the Homeland” from the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

When Main Stream Media (MSM) has an agenda, one that will do everything and anything to silence the conservative voice and one that will do everything in its power to re-elect one of America’s most dangerous administrations, it is obvious they felt no need to caution the American public about growing domestic Islamic threats.

The threat of Hezbollah inside the United States is nothing new and it should have been reported long ago. Simply put, the MSM failed in their obligations to keep the American public informed. Its simply amazing that it took so long; after all, Hezbollah has been on the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since the 1980’s.

Clare Lopez, a retired CIA Officer, had publicly presented evidence of Hezbollah infiltration operations inside the United States for several years, and here at SUA, we have been reporting it repeatedly for years. In fact, while speaking at the 2010 Border Security Expo in Phoenix, AZ, Lopez sat on a panel discussing the Iranian supported “Party of God” terror group operating on our border. She also explained to the audience how those operations have actually crossed into the United States and for years have threatened our homeland.

In 2006, the Justice Department launched urgent new probes in New York and other cities targeting members of the Lebanese Shi’ite terror group. The New York Post published a piece in May of 2006 which claimed that “Law-enforcement and intelligence officials stated that about a dozen hard-core supporters of Hezbollah have been identified in recent weeks as operating in the New York City area (alone).”

Hezbollah, on the Foreign Terror Organization list at State since the 1980's, reported infiltration in the USA for years, just now the MSM reports on the threat!

Between 1996 and 2002, Imad Hammoud, along with his partner, Hassan Makki, ran a multi-million dollar a year contraband cigarette trafficking organization headquartered in the Dearborn, Michigan area. Their operation was intercepted and a total of nineteen Islamic terrorists were indicted for funding terrorism. Makki pleaded guilty in 2003 inside the Detroit Federal District Court to racketeering and providing material support to Hezbollah.

There is absolutely nothing new about Hezbollah operations inside the United States. But again, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper refused to acknowledge the threat in his most recent National Threat Assessment. Why should he? The MSM refused to acknowledge Hezbollah inside the United States for well over ten years. I guess if we all just close our eyes, the bad guys will go away.

Thankfully, NYPD and some federal agencies have not been corrupted by today’s unprecedented amount of political correctness. Now that the cat is out of the bag will the MSM begin to cover such threats more regularly or will this be another quick snippet on national news? Considering its election season, it is highly probable that the MSM will quickly go back to their old ways and resume their attacks against the conservative voice. And of course, they will close their eyes in hopes that the bad guys will just go away.

Edited by Scott W. Winchell


Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran, is a senior analyst for WIKISTRAT.  He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security and interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban.   You can follow him on Facebook or at

Specialized Unit Even Noah Would Be Proud Of – Phoenix Raven

By Kerry Patton, SUA Kitchen Cabinet and Staff Member

Kerry Patton

In biblical times, Noah sent the Raven in harm’s way to observe the flood. The Raven flew back and forth until the flood waters dried. The Raven served as a protector and intelligence collector selflessly risking its life ensuring the safety of Noah and his Arc. Today’s incorporation of the U.S. Air Force’s Phoenix Raven is quite similar and the program just surpassed a major milestone.

Oftentimes, the United States engages in military operations other than war. These operations can be austere in nature simply due to the geopolitical environment where these missions are executed. The Raven ventures on these operations and executes the mission protecting U.S. assets and collecting invaluable information—both tasks can be more than life threatening.

Phoenix Raven USAF
USAF - Phoenix Raven Logo

Phoenix Ravens have participated in Hurricane Katrina operations, tsunami and earthquake disaster relief, augmentation of U.S. Federal Air Marshalls, and immediately after the horrific terrorist attacks on 9-11, Ravens swiftly responded to the call for action. They are some of our nation’s best and brightest. Today, they deserve recognition for their operations and breaching a milestone of graduating its 2,000th member.

The United States Phoenix Raven is not the military’s baddest of the bad. No, they are not Navy SEAL’s, Delta Force, Army Special Forces, etc. They are an anti-terrorism/force protection asset. And when it comes to securing some of our nation’s most prized possessions, they are the best.

The Phoenix Raven program, while not construed as a “Special Operations Force,” comprises a force of extremely specialized warfighters. As a program, the USS Cole Commission recognized the Phoenix Raven Program as the best “anti-terrorism program.”  In 1999, the program earned honors as DoD’s “Most Outstanding Antiterrorism Innovation or Action.” Some of its members have even earned recognition through the “Air Force’s Outstanding Intelligence Contributor Award.”

These awards are deserving and worthy. Today’s recognition is more about the award of surpassing a milestone that very few ever imagined. On September 22nd, the U.S. Air Force Phoenix Raven program graduates its 2,000th operator.

Many DoD representatives believed the Raven program would only last a few months.  A few months turned into years. Today, the program has lasted approximately fourteen years and is moving stronger than ever.

Ravens operate in some of the world’s most austere environments.  More often than not, they operate without any significant support. They travel abroad in teams of two to six persons, protect critical assets, collect information later to be used for operational planning, and then some.

Training is not nearly as long or physically strenuous as most specialized schoolhouses.  A Phoenix Raven is already in physical shape long before attending the 421st schoolhouse. Any Security Forces member can volunteer to become a Raven but just volunteering is not enough–home stations put candidates through their own screening gauntlet.  Sometimes it takes future candidates a year or longer just getting home station approval to attend the prestigious schoolhouse.

After graduation and earning the Raven number, these operatives often endure advanced training in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE). Others have undergone Airborne, Air Assault, sniper/counter-sniper, and different intelligence and counterterrorism training. A select few have even graduated from the prestigious U.S. Army RANGER course.

On the surface, Raven training is quite simple—verbal judo, combatives, advanced firearms, threat surveys, anti-hijacking, etc. What is never revealed is the reality of the mental training fulfilled. Being a Phoenix Raven is all mental. Ravens must be quick thinkers, cognitive analyzers, and mentally tough even when confronted with the most strenuous situation—while battling some of the world’s most harsh conditions.

Graduates receive a very unique lifelong numeric identifier. That number is their “Raven number.” It is a number used for operational planners. For the Raven, it is who they are in the community–their status quo–the lower the number, the more historic the Raven. Colonel Lawrence “Rocky” Lane is the esteemed Raven #1.

This Thursday, current and past Ravens will join together to celebrate one of the programs most historic ground breaking milestones—Noah would be proud. The 2,000th Raven will graduate and soon operate abroad in locations where most American’s have no idea military operations exist.  As we should embrace all of our military service members, today, a special salute goes out to the U.S. Air Force Security Force’s Phoenix Raven.

Kerry Patton is the Co-Founder of the National Security Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization pending 501c (3) status. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies” and the children’s book “American Patriotism.” He is also a former Raven Team Member, Leader, and Instructor for the Phoenix Raven Program. You can follow him on Facebook.